Players: Sean Nittner, Mara Nittner
System: Something we made up similar to Parseley
My daughter and I have played this proto-roleplaying game before, but in the past it took on the form of endless cycles of:
Game Master: There are three doors in front of you.
Player: I go through door number 1.
Game Master: That leads to a tunnel that forks left and right.
Player: I go right.
Game Master: That leads to a river with three boats, a bronze silver, and gold one.
Player: I take the silver boat.
Game Master: It docks at a shore with three doors in front of you…
And you can just play that forever. There isn’t really any roleplaying or storytelling, but if you remember your paths there does begin some world building and eventually (as we saw this time) we get bored with the same context lacking choices and start giving them more meaning. We were driving up from LA and had hours to kill, so the games started getting pretty elaborate.
Here was a snippet from the Maze game Mara ran for me:
Mara: You stand in front of three doors, one is purple, one is pink, and one is yellow. (normal enough so far)
Sean: I choose the pink door.
Mara: You come to three tunnels, one is purple, one is pink and one is yellow (same, old, same old, right?)
Sean: What are the tunnels made of?
Mara: Thick plastic, like the kind slides are made of. They are big enough to walk through.
Sean: I take the yellow tunnel.
Mara: It leads to a old renaissance like village and there are three merchants there. One who sells maps, one who sells cloaks, and one who sells baked goods.
Okay, it’s still just the three choices again right? But there is more, as I see people I get to start asking them questions, and find out what they know and what they want. We have a bit of dialogue and everyone is extremely polite (there were lots of please and thank yous going around). After the renaissance village called La La Land, I found a path to a futuristic place called Future Land. There they sold powerful flashlights and other other useful things.
Okay, the fact that we were driving back from Disneyland and she was just copying Fantasy Land, Tomorrow Land and other parts of the park were obvious, but that didn’t matter. Using those place holders gave her a framework to build a much bigger world with things going on.
When it was my turn to run the Maze I placed her in the role of an North Pole Elf who had to help Santa because the sleigh was stuck and couldn’t take off. It involved all sorts of silly things like needing to get the extension cord out of the kitchen drawer so that she could drag the hair drawer all the way to the front door and unthaw the frozen deadbolt. I made it pretty Parsley-like and instead of always giving her options, I let her guide what we were doing. There were still some very fixed boundaries in the “maze”, some options just didn’t work, at least without some effort. But by the end she repaired the robot, got it to lift the sleigh, and made off into the night with Santa to deliver presents.